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Into Thin Air (J. Krakauer)

2005-10-24 2 min read Books marco

Do you think an expedition to climb Mt. Everest sounds fun? Well, if you do, you should read this book.

Jon Krakauer is very sympathetic to the plight of mountaineers. He understands very well why people are attracted to high mountains, their rarified atmosphere, and to the incredible opportunities to die. And the latter are the most remarkable things about this book.

Sent by Outside magazine to discover the thrill of Everest climbing, Mr. Krakauer sets out with a group of unprepared humans and a set of sherpas and guides to climb the highest of Earthly mountains. The expedition succeeds, and all but a handful make it to the top.

Coming down turns to be difficult. Many a member perish, and the book recounts the deaths with mastery and conviction.

Mr. Krakauer doesn’t turn a blind eye to his own failings and that of his friends’. We learn about mountaineering, learn the courage and intellectual honesty that go with this endeavour. One thing, though, I didn’t learn: why would anyone want to do something as painful, as excruciating, and as pointless as climbing Mt. Everest?

After reading the book, this was the one question I couldn’t shake off. Why?

Of course, this means the book could stir me into caring, which is quite odd given the self-interested bunch portrayed. Compliments to the excellent writing, to the perfect staccato of events, and the incredibly well researched background.